Who: Santino Fontana, Arjun Gupta, John Ortiz, Alison Pill, Nicholas Pinnock, Jamey Sheridan, Lorraine Toussaint
What: World premiere livestreamed play
Where: Public Theater website and YouTube channel
When: July 8, 7:30, through August 4, 11:59 pm
Why: On March 3, Coal Country opened at the Public Theater, but it had to close nine days later because of the pandemic lockdown. Written by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Blank, and featuring songs by Steve Earle, the show dealt with the Upper Big Branch mining disaster that killed twenty-nine men in West Virginia in 2010. (On April 5, Earle gave a solo Coal Country Quarantined concert on Facebook Live, including details about the story.) Undeterred, Blank and Jensen have gotten right back to business and are now ready to premiere their next project, The Line, a digital drama directed by Blank based on interviews with first responders and essential health-care workers in New York City’s fight against the novel coronavirus. The impressive cast, performing from wherever they’re sheltering in place, consists of Santino Fontana, Arjun Gupta, John Ortiz, Alison Pill, Nicholas Pinnock, Jamey Sheridan, and Lorraine Toussaint, with original music by Aimee Mann. “In spring 2020, we conducted anonymous interviews with NYC frontline medical workers battling the Covid-19 virus,” Blank and Jensen explained in a statement. “Through these interviews, we began to see care as a radical response to institutionalized violence and the systems that perpetuate it. Created from quarantine in ‘rapid response’ to this national emergency, The Line presents a fundamental redefinition of what it means to protect and serve, examining the fault lines in our system through the words of the brave people who show up every day to care for us all.”
The sixty-minute play debuts on the Public Theater website and YouTube channel on July 8 at 7:30 and can be streamed through August 4 at 11:59 pm. “We owe our lives to the frontline workers who are fighting through the Covid-19 crisis, and they have an astounding story to tell — one that demands we listen,” Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis added. “The pandemic has exposed deep fissures in our country, and these brave women and men are throwing light into those dark places. Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen are masters of the docudrama form, and in The Line they are demonstrating an artistic rapid response that is impressive and vital.” Husband and wife Jensen and Blank previously collaborated on The Exonerated, about wrongly accused men and women on Death Row, and Aftermath, about Iraqi civilian refugees in Jordan; they are indeed masters of the form, so don’t miss The Line, which is being presented for free although donations to the Public will be gladly accepted.